There is something damning about the “enterprisingly ridden” tag, in relation to a racehorse, the implication being that he couldn’t have achieved the same placing on merit. Surely that explains the 25-1 available about Playa Del Puente (9.40am) in the QEII Cup, the most valuable of three Group One races on Sunday morning’s card at Sha Tin in Hong Kong, to be shown live on Sky Sports Racing.
It is worth considering that the progressive four-year-old deserved his second place in last month’s Hong Kong Derby, for all that Blake Shinn showed good awareness of the muddling early pace. Yes, the jockey made an astute decision to press the button before the end of the back straight. But it was Playa Del Puente who had the ability to pass the entire field in the space of about a furlong and then to pull clear as those rivals were asked to chase him.
The favourite ran him down in the end but he finished three lengths clear of the rest. Is it impossible he could have done as well under conventional tactics? After all, he was a Listed-race winner in Ireland on his only run at three, with Western Australia and Numerian behind him. The absence of international raiders means there is not much depth to this contest. Playa Del Puente, the only representative of his generation, can get involved.
5.45 The answer to a wide-open first race could be Telecom Rocket, who has a handy inside draw for the first time since he was beaten a head here in January. He has continued to run well but was coming from too far back at the end of races in which he was drawn 13 and then 12. From nine last time, he got into contention at the home turn but a bumping match with the eventual winner finished off his challenge. This race may work out better.
6.15 In his five runs in Hong Kong, War Of Courage has shown progressive form against quality rivals over five furlongs. Stepping up in distance to six furlongs on the round course is a significant change but it must be a help for the son of Declaration Of War. His early pace can help him gain a good early position, despite a wide draw, with the canny Chad Schofield aboard.
6.45 Schofield may feel he has his work cut out on Casa De Forca, who has been hard to win with since leaving Ed Walker in 2018, when he was known as Hombre Casado. Joao Moreira was beaten on him three times in a row earlier this year but the step down to six furlongs seemed to help when Casa De Forca was second to a hot favourite a fortnight ago and this could be a better opportunity.
7.15 Though he won a couple of races at seven furlongs early in the year, Joyful Heart has been crying out for this step up to a mile since he moved up a grade. This could be a fruitful return to his saddle for Zac Purton, who has not been aboard since their comfortable success two months ago.
7.50 The biggest talent on show here may be Aethero but this imposing youngster may need time to mature. He was odds-on for a Group Two against some of these rivals three weeks ago but missed the kick and then ran far too free, finishing last. A better show is likely here but he is hard to trust and will surely be a short price again. Hot King Prawn is rather more reliable and can get his first success at the highest level, having been placed three times this season. He couldn’t get to Voyage Warrior that day but that rival has a tougher draw now.
8.25 Unbeaten in three runs at Sha Tin, Wellington looked a fair way ahead of his mark in his most recent victory, over a subsequent winner. The 10lb rise should be manageable. There is more danger in the step up in distance to seven furlongs, for a horse who can take a firm grip in the early stages, but opposing him does not appeal.
9.00 The world seemed upside down when Beauty Generation was beaten four times in a row this season, twice at odds-on. But John Moore’s star is seven years old and can’t be expected to produce a peak effort every time, all season long. Consecutive wins suggest the ship has been righted and it’s worth noting that he was giving weight to some of these when he beat them in a Group Two three weeks ago.
10.15 A memorably impressive Listed winner for Jane Chapple-Hyam at the July meeting in 2018, when he was called Naval Intelligence, Gold Chest has become a sprinter. Five furlongs proved a shade too sharp last time but he scored over six here in February and has more to offer.
10.50 Stepping up to a mile proved a help to Monica, a winner in February before two good efforts in defeat. This step up in class could also prove to be good news, if it provides the inaptly named gelding with a marginally stronger early pace, as his powerful finish may be seen to still better effect. Chris Cook
French Derby moved to July slot
France Galop, French racing’s ruling body, has published a revised fixture list from a proposed resumption behind closed doors on 11 May until the end of August, with either one or two meetings each day and the first Classics of the season rescheduled for Monday 1 June, a public holiday.
The revised schedule, which depends on government approval for a resumption, includes several trials for the French 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas at Longchamp, as well as the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) and Prix de Diane (French Oaks), which will now be run at Chantilly on 5 July.